Monday, October 29, 2007

5 Consequences of the Cuban Missile Crisis

The military confrontation between the USA and the Soviet Union over nuclear missiles in Cuba, in October of 1962, is often cited as the closest the 2 rival powers came to all-out nuclear war. While a timely US naval "quarantine" by President Kennedy forced Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev to withdraw the weapons, there were losers on both sides, as these 5 points indicate:

  1. Hard liners seized control of the Soviet Union. After forcing out Khrushchev who was considered a failure over the crisis, a new leader, Leonid Brezhnev led the Russians in a massive new arms race with America that nearly gave them victory in the Cold War. It was only matched by the USA beginning in the 1980's by President Ronald Reagan.
  2. Decline of the Democrat Party. The Crisis was a high tide of the Party that defeated fascism in WW 2, and began the Cold War against the Soviets. Though they had pulled off an enormous diplomatic coup, the Kennedy Administration was apparently so intimidated by nearly starting World War 3, they agreed to nuclear parity with the Warsaw Pact. Negotiations over arms became common, and soon were the rule with the failed Detente Policy, with the Soviets often came out best in these deals. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara felt they had won the Crisis by restraining the military from launching a war, thus began a reflex suspicion of the Armed Forces within the Party.
  3. Road paved to Vietnam. When the decision came over how to combat communism in South East Asia, the advice of military leaders were often ignored, thus beginning the path to failure in the War. McNamara's successful micro-managing of the brief crisis didn't work so well in a sustained military campaign, and is often cited as the cause of our defeat in Vietnam.
  4. Cuba remained communist. By assuring the Soviets that Cuba would not be invaded, as a condition for removing the missiles, the island nation would remain in bondage to failed socialism long after communism had fallen in Eastern Europe.
  5. Allies on both sides felt alienated. The Cubans under Fidel Castro were angered that Russia agreed to pull out the missiles without consulting them. Likewise was Turkey left out of the loop over the secret America deal to dismantle nuclear rockets in that country. Britain and France accelerated their own nuclear programs, after being ignored in the Superpower negotiations, even though they would be on the frontlines of any war between the 2 antagonists.
Certainly a turning point in the Cold War, with America increasingly on the decline, but still constantly on her guard. Luckily, the slide toward defeat was halted in time under Reagan and a revitalized conservatism to steer the Soviets toward a peaceable collapse.